Ow. My Legs.

Before I get into talking about how my legs hurt so much, I have to tell you about my meetup with Liz and Austen!! We got to meet up (huskies in tow) out in Middleburg for lunch, and it was so fantastic to be able to just talk ponies and cocktails. It’s the funniest feeling meeting blog friends in real life- even though it was our first time seeing each other in the real world, it felt like we already knew each other so well. I was hoping they would have time to come meet Frankie, and even more fantastically they had their cameras with them!

It was so lovely to get to introduce them to Frankie. I know I may be biased because I’m his mother, but there is something so special about that horse and I love getting to share that spark with friends. He was enthralled with the huskies and was on the lookout for scritches the whole time. We even popped Liz and Austen up for a brief ride- Frankie was a bit confused that he still had to work, but was happy enough to go be a good goober for both of them. It makes my heart so happy to see him go be such a good soul. Bonus: I have so many absolutely gorgeous pictures to share with you guys!!

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This one is absolutely getting framed. Liz, somehow you managed to capture Frankie so beautifully and with such kindness, and it brings tears to my eyes.

Now on to my muscle soreness: we have officially entered the era of private lessons once more. It’s been two weeks with my new flex schedule and while it’s been a bit of an adjustment to get out the door earlier in the mornings, it’s ABSOFREAKIN’ FANTASTIC. I may never be able to go back to a normal schedule again, you guys. So far we’ve had two (incredible) private lessons on Friday afternoons, and here are some jumbled thoughts that I have so far:

  • In our first lesson, we did not jump a single fence. We worked on correct transitions, channeling our energy straight and powerfully, and convincing Frankie that I know what I’m doing up top (which is only sometimes true, but he doesn’t need to know that). I was sweaty and dying by the end.
  • Frankie absolutely can and should carry himself, and he is smart enough to know that historically I have not insisted on this. He does not test Trainer or AT. He does test me- which is fair. We had a few mini-tantrums when I continued to insist, but once we pushed past that he gave me INCREDIBLE work. He’s pretty sure this whole “work super hard to build muscle and self-carriage” thing is bogus, but he seems to be resigning himself to it.
  • THIS IS SO FREAKIN’ HARD. My muscles are so sore. Like, muscles that I don’t usually use for riding are sore. Which is actually also super encouraging, because it means that I’m moving in different ways and the whole point of this is to be doing things differently and better. But ow. Seriously, ow.
  • Francis is, as always, my tattletale. My leg comes off? Head immediately pops up and he totally inverts. I stop engaging my core? Prancing jigging steps. He is happy to work, but only as hard as I am. And he will not give me what I’m asking unless I ask properly, which makes him such an excellent teacher! Luckily he’s patient as I work through all the ways to *not* ask properly before landing on the right way.
  • He needs to respect this new bit- he cannot park on the end of it like he did with the snaffle. If he learns to park on this bit, we have just lost all our adjustability that we gained with the additional leverage. This is why I must insist on that self-carriage, and it’s why my trainer didn’t entrust me with this type of bit until quite recently.
  • Rewards must be quick and frequent. As soon as I feel him soften, I must soften in return- but not until I get that softening. Reward the good, and respond to resistance with consistent but firm correction. Set him up to answer correctly so that we can reward often.
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We take breaks when we are a good pony. PC- Liz
  • When we have the right canter, we don’t need to see a spot. In our last lesson, I felt like I nailed every single distance to every single fence. Some were a little longer or shorter than others, but every single one felt powerful and out of stride. He was so adjustable and powerful that getting to that right spot was downright easy, and he rewarded me by cracking his back over the fences- I got popped out of the tack a few times because of the strength of his effort!
  • Riding him more strongly and insisting on more is downright addicting. Of course he’s always a blast to ride, but feeling that balance and power underneath me is the most incredible feeling. I was grinning through my entire last ride. I was also panting and sweating trying to get all my muscles to move in concert, but I was on the verge of giggling as I felt Frankie round up into the bridle and push. I didn’t ever want to hop off.
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“Do not want work, pls stop.” (as I gasp for air) PC- Liz

In a nutshell, I’m trying to learn how to ride Frankie like my trainer rides Frankie. And it’s really really hard and a lot of work and everything hurts and it is so incredibly fun as we both learn the rules of the game.

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THE SWEETEST SNOOT. PC- Liz

Muscles are sore, heart is full, and I’m so beyond thrilled with the Big Best Beast.

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Guest Post: Blogger Weekend!

I’m sure many of you remember Jenn from Stories from the Saddle- she’s taken a hiatus from blogging but we’ve stayed close! I FINALLY managed to get her down to VA for a visit, and then convinced her to guest post about it 🙂 Enjoy!

Hello again blogland!

Apologies for the delay on writing this guest post, work has been (unexpectedly) INSANE for the past two days, and I’m trying to steal away some time this morning to tell you about my weekend with Olivia! Olivia came to NJ to visit me last summer, and we always talked about me going down to Virginia to visit her, and last weekend worked out for both of us, so I made the drive down. I actually ended up driving down Thursday afternoon-ish, which was both a blessing and a curse, because I hit Baltimore/Arlington/DC traffic right around 5pm, so it took me almost 4 hours to get there. But, no matter! Here’s the rundown of how our weekend went!

Thursday

I met Olivia at her barn around 6pm on Thursday evening, right as the sun was beginning to set (Daylight Savings Time, I love you), and let me just say that Olivia’s barn is GORGEOUS! It kinda sits on top of a hill, and the views from the paddocks and outdoor ring are really beautiful. First order of business (after getting a proper tour) was MEETING THE DRAGON MARE! Addy was slightly taller/bulkier than I expected, but she’s absolutely, 100% a Beast Mare. Olivia pulled her out of her stall, gave her lots of kisses, and we headed to the outdoor ring. Olivia rode her around first, and then I hopped on!

From the word go, you can definitely tell that Addy has some serious power in her gaits, and it took me a few minutes to figure out how to half-halt hard enough, I’m used to Roger’s more sensitive mouth. But, once I figured that out, Addy was really a super fun ride! She’s got all kinds of fun buttons to push, and I really enjoyed riding her.

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Then, Olivia asked me if I wanted to jump her, and I was slightly hesitant because it’s SO MUCH POWER. Olivia got back on her and popped her over some barrels, but I was pretty intimidated so I opted not to jump Addy around. We only had the one jump set up in the outdoor, but I watched Olivia jump Addy over it, and decided that I was good to go.

After that, we were able to catch the end of the adult ammy lesson in the indoor, and I’ll freely admit that I’m a lesson nerd: I’m a visual learner, and I really enjoy watching lessons, so it was cool to watch. I was also able to catch D’Arcy on her mare Gracie (of The Clueless But Curious Rider blog), as well as 4 other adult ammys on horses with various levels of training. But the way her trainer worked everyone together was fun to see!

After that, we unloaded Olivia’s new Stanley trunk from her car and into the tack room, and headed out for food, since we were both starving by that time. She took me to this great Mexican restaurant not far from her house (or the barn), and we got drinks and food and chatted about plenty of horse things, as horse people will do. After that, we got back to her apartment, I met her (totally awesome) roommate and her dog, and we got to bed around midnight.

Friday

On Friday morning, Olivia had to work for a few hours, so I was perfectly content to chill at Starbucks until she picked me up, and we headed to her barn to grab her trainer and her saddle, and then made the short drive to a nearby trainer’s barn to try two horses. And, I got to meet Olivia’s other trainer/mentor/life coach, who actually reminds me of my own trainer in a lot of ways. Her trainer is definitely no muss, no fuss, but you can absolutely tell that she knows her stuff and always tries to get the best out of her riders. She’s also super knowledgeable, and it was cool to listen to her conversation with Olivia both ways in the car and get a feel for why Olivia and her students love her so much.

After trying the horses, we were – again – starving, so we drove over to this cool American restaurant and sat outside on their patio, since the weather was SO nice. We actually got really lucky with the weather all weekend, it was sunny, slightly breezy and around 70 degrees, which was perfect! Again, we had drinks and yummy food and talked all things horses, and cracked open a bottle of wine when we got home and sat around her apartment to hang out…as adults do.

Saturday

Before I got down there, Olivia asked me what kinds of things I wanted to do during the visit, and brunch and going to a winery were definitely on my list, so that’s what we did on Saturday! Olivia, myself, and her roommate did brunch at this really nice place a few minutes from her apartment, and we chatted for over an hour about all kinds of things. The conversation was great, and the food was awesome! After brunch, we drove over to Stone Tower Winery, at Olivia’s roommate’s recommendation, and tasted a few wines before buying a few bottles and snagging seats at a table overlooking the rolling hills and a small pond.

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The winery was pretty crowded but it didn’t matter, because everyone was enjoying themselves outside and sipping the delicious wine.

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It was SUCH a great day, we stayed at the winery for a few hours, and it was the perfect ending to a wonderful weekend. We grabbed pizza on the way home and brought it back to Olivia’s apartment, before relaxing for the rest of the night.

Sunday

On Sunday morning, we both slept in slightly, and then we got dressed and ready to go. Olivia was headed to some Easter festivities, and I was planning to get on the road back to NJ. I actually made it home in under 3 hours, which was great, and didn’t hit any traffic on the way back.

Overall, it was such a PERFECT weekend full of horsey things and wine, which is always the best combination. Though I’ve only met her once before, Olivia and I didn’t skip a beat, and we had such a great time the whole weekend! Hopefully we can see each other again soon!

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Editor’s note: this weekend was SO MUCH FUN!!! We’re already planning our next meetup 🙂